The Worst Health Club in the Chicago Area-Lifetime Fitness-Old Orchard

The Worst Health Club in the Chicago Area-Lifetime Fitness-Old Orchard

When you join a health club, there are a few things you expect for your money:  cleanliness, safety and a helpful staff.  Being an “endurance sports” blogger you tend to spend a great deal of time in and out of health clubs, it’s a part of the gig.

I have been fortunate enough to experience some amazing facilities and some not so amazing facilities.  We were going to write about the best and the worst health clubs in the North Shore, but the word “best” is subjective, depending on your needs and fitness goals.

With that in mind, we present to you the worst health club in the Chicagoland area, Lifetime Fitness- Old Orchard. 


Lifetime Fitness-Old Orchard is a reverse “book by it’s cover,” meaning, at first glance it seems amazing, but once you get to know the club, you realize that it is a feces soaked, money suck that is not worth the time or the investment.

As a member I  have watched and experienced several things that have made this club the worst of the worst, here’s why.

The Pools-

The Pool- Lifetime offers an indoor and outdoor zero depth pool, which is great of you have families, but can also be very scary, with over crowding, untrained life guards and poop, lots and lots of poop.

While LTF makes it a point to outfit their life guards in Baywatch looking swim suits, their life saving skills are about as good as the actors on the show.  The “family friendly” outdoor pool can be the most dangerous place for your kids to be left alone.  While the life guards were busy flirting and showing off their abs, I had to save a little girl that was drowning in the pool.  It  was only after I jumped in, grabbed the child swam to the side of the pool and yelled for help, did the life guards notice.  Their response “sir that’s our job.”

Feces(poop) and MRSA- After talking to a doctor, I found out that most public pools have MRSA in them, it’s too hard to completely control.  This is why you want to avoid swimming in a pool with an  open cut.  Chances are the pool at Lifetime Fitness Old Orchard has more than most, because of the many times it has to be close because of a kid pooping in the pool.  In a stretch this Summer the outdoor pool was closed two times in a two day period because of poop.

The good thing about the poop in the pool is LFT has two pools.  The bad thing is in each of those incidents, they kept the indoor pool closed, leaving kids and families waiting around for hours while they cleaned the poop out of the pools.  For a family friendly health club, the planning for these types of incidents are poorly planned and leave families with no other options to entertain their kids.

Well, there is the hot tubs.  At Lifetime Fitness- Old Orchard, the hot tubs are co-ed, and part of the pool areas.  There are two, full of adults and older teens who for whatever reason think that the hot tubs, out in public are a great place to have make out, dry hump and as I was told by a former manager, have lots of sex.  Which is fun to explain to your kids as you are forced to walk past them, “well buddy, that woman is on top of that man, because they are real good friends.”

I am not naïve, I used to work at a Chicago Health Club back in the “day,” and the managers made no bones about it.  The job of the club wasn’t to make people healthy, it was to get them to sign up for a membership.  Most people sign up, use their memberships a little and stop coming.  The more memberships the better.  Facilities and cleanliness are second.

With that in mind, I turn my head to a lot of things that are a part of being a member of Lifetime Fitness- Old Orchard.  Pubes floating in the lap pool, no big deal.  Poop stains on the towels, get another towel.  Sweat all over a machine, use the towel.  These are a part of the “personality” of Lifetime Fitness-old Orchard.  If you know to wear flip flops in the locker room, you won’t get pee all over your feet.  Simple.

The things that are hard to deal with are tampons floating in the lap pool.  When I swam through a floating used tampon, I had to call attention  to the pool attendant.  Come to find out the attendant wasn’t as grossed out as I was “ we will get to it, we don’t’ clean the pools until later, “ was his answer.  When I asked what was I supposed to do about it, his answer was simple, “swim around it.”  That kind of advice is worth the $140  a month!

Problem is if you life in the Northern suburbs, this is one of the few options for families.  After a water main break on Friday night, the pool was closed. When asked, what was going to be done to accommodate the many  families that were coming to the pool, the answer again was so simple, “nothing.” Not open a gym for the kids or a climbing wall or a special activity, just “go home.”

On Saturday, I decided to keep an open mind and try the club again.  In a two hour period, adults who were done playing basketball in the gym, walked into the pool area fully clothed, talked to the life guard, then began to undress and were about to use the kids pool as a shower!  It was only saying something to the same life guard that he had to stop them.

30 minutes later a mother with four girls under the age of eight ( I asked her) spent 20 minutes in the sauna, not a single guard noticed, though they fold towels with their backs to the sauna.  The door on the sauna clearly states “nobody under the age of 12.”  It’s bad parenting and completely neglectful on the part of Lifetime Fitness- Old Orchard.

The Gym

Out of the pool and into the gym area. Again, the place looks like a top notch gym, until you ask for help or check out the cleanliness of the equipment.

Again, gyms are a business, we have established that.  Many gyms like Lifetime Fitness- Old Orchard, have personal trainers that are employees, but also independent contractors, meaning they are there to make money as well, working with clients.

Many health clubs have “roving trainers” there to help answer your questions, teach you how to use new equipment and keep you from hurting yourself.  Not at Lifetime Fitness-Old Orchard, we heard plenty of error stories, but this one stands out as a prime example.

One of the members was working out on the hip sled, when his knee buckled and he was stuck under the weight of the sled.  There was a trainer working with a client a few machines down, when the man asked for help, the trainer told the man “he was busy with a client.”  He was able to get free, but could hardly walk.  To get to the locker room, you have to pass two desks full of trainers, not one of them asked the man for help as he hopped on one leg past them.

The list goes on and on. Alleged drug deals, rumors of prostitutes working the pool area, people getting into fights in the parking lot over parking spaces, even the staff doesn’t actually work out at their club, opting for other clubs in the area.

Last Summer I was at the Lifetime Fitness in Vernon Hills(one of the best health clubs in the area) and noticed several staff members from the Old Orchard club.  When I asked them “what they were doing there?”  They told me “our club is a dump, we would never hang out there.”

The Lifetime Fitness –Old Orchard was one of the first of its kind in the area, like an older child if not attended to it can go flying out of control, which it has.  For the amount of money, there are better options for families and single members, which we will explore at another time.

This is not indicative of all Lifetime Fitness clubs, as we stated earlier, their Vernon Hills club is the polar opposite of the Old Orchard club, clean, friendly, safe and so far a tampon-less pool.

As far as the near North Shore, Lifetime Fitness –Old Orchard, is “broken,” and needs to be fixed.


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  • Dave, after reading this post there's several problems I see from it. I want to point them out to you just to make you aware. First off you talk about untrained life guards. For any person to even sit in a life guard chair they MUST undergo many hours of training, especially to work for a corporation such as Life Time. So for you to assume they are untrained based off of what you saw is wrong. Are you currently certified as a life guard or life guard instructor? If not, you can't pretend you are qualified to judge the life guards skills. When you saved that little girl I'm assuming you saw it right as it happened? Most life guards are trained to scan the whole zone and identify struggling swimmers within 10 seconds. They may not notice the struggling swimmer right away but if they are scanning their zone like they're trained they would have seen her within that 10 second time period. I know this because I train life guards regularly. With the fecal incidents, can you really blame the club and life guards for these? It's not like they can control when it happens. It happens at any pool you go to. The way they go about handling it is something they can control but do you know their exact policies and procedures for doing this? Next you talk about the adults coming in after playing basketball. Was that life guard playing basketball or in the gym with them? Probably not. How could they have known this information without someone telling them? At the various other pools I have been to and worked at, it's not uncommon for someone to come in fully clothed, undress, and go for a swim. Most of these people aren't there to use the pool as a shower, they there to swim like everyone else. You talk about the kids in the sauna. It's pretty easy to notice these flaws and problems when you're specifically looking for them and you're not occupied by something else. The employees would probably have been grateful to hear information about someone who was violating the rules and would have acted on it, at least most employees in any setting. You could have told someone and if these employees are set on doing their job the problem would probably have been corrected. Next you talk about the man on the hip sled who called out for help, but the trainer ignored him. Why didn't you help him? You don't have to be an employee to help someone in need? It makes me question your morals. A good moral person would have helped the person as soon as possible instead of watching to see what happens. Now this is an eye opening column and I'm sure many people will get insight into this club but please check your facts in the future instead of jumping to conclusions. If those life guards are actually as bad as you portray them to be then they need to be held accountable. It is not a job that you can afford to do incorrectly.

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